Can’t Contain(erize) the Hype – is Docker real or a bubble?

Editorial Note: This was written in April 2014.  Check out how we are using Docker in our latest architectures.

The new application portability darling, Docker, was so popular at this week’s Red Hat Summit that I was expecting Miley Cyrus’ flock of paparazzi to abandon in her favor of Ben Golub.

Personally, I find Docker to be a useful tool and we’ve been embedding it into our dev and test processes in useful ways for DefCore TCUP (at Conference), OpenCrowbar Admin and Dev Nodes.  To me, these are concrete and clear use cases.

There are clearly a lot more great use-cases for Docker, but I can’t help but feel like it’s being thrown into architectural layer cakes and markitectures as a substitute for the non-words “cloud”, “amazing” and “revolutionary.”

How do I distinguish hot from hype?  I look for places where Docker is solving just one problem set instead being a magic wand solution to a raft of systemic issues.

Places where I think Docker is potent and disruptive

  • Creating a portable and consistent environment for dev, test and delivery
  • Helping Linux distros keep updating the kernel without breaking user space (RHEL 7 anyone?)
  • Reducing the virtualization overhead of tenant isolation (containers are lighter)
  • Reducing the virtualization overhead for DevOps developers testing multi-node deployments

But I’m concerned that we’re expecting too many silver bullets

  • Packaging is still tricky:  Creating a locked box helps solve part of downstream problem (you know what you have) but not the upstream problem (you don’t know what you depend on).
  • Container sprawl: Breaking deployments into more functional discrete parts is smart, but that means we have MORE PARTS to manage.   There’s an inflection point between separation of concerns and sprawl.
  • PaaS Adoption: Docker helps with PaaS but it does not solve neither the “you have to model your apps for a PaaS” nor the “PaaS needs scalable data services” problems

Speaking of Miley Cyrus, it’s not the container that matters, but what’s on the inside.  Docker can take a lesson from Miley: attention is great but you’ve still got to be able to sing.    I’m not sure about Miley, but I am digging the tracks that Docker is laying down.  Docker is worth putting on your play list.

If Apple is Disney then is the iPad Miley Cyrus?

Or Is Apple’s walled garden more like Disney World

With the iPad frenzy, I’ve been hearing a lot about Apple’s success with its walled garden approach.  I objected to their proprietary closed stance on principle for a long time.  When I finally caved in, I came to understand something fundamentally true about consumers: predictability matters to the mainstream.

This is really no surprise.   Walt Disney figured this out with his amusement parks a long time ago.

Disney World is the ultimate walled garden.  They relentlessly control every mote of our experience in their parks and my family loves it.  We happily willingly pay a premium for the experience because we know that going to Disney World will be a smooth and our fun in assured. 

However, we less willingly pay a second price for our Disney experience; it’s homogenous and bland.  It lacks the spontaneity and vibe of the Austin City Limits music festivals.   At festivals, the content is raw and fresh and things can go wonderfully wrong.  You may be delighted by Vampire Weekend when you’d planned to see the Bob Dylan.

And so, Apple provides the quality control and censorship to Disney-ify our smart phones and tablets.  They’ve created a safe place to show off their impressive innovations.  They’ve created a limited market where they can control the spot lights.  In this way, Apple reminds me of how Disney manipulates it media outlets to create multi-talent superstars like Miley Cyrus.  They craft personas for their actors and ensure that they can sing, dance, and act.  This maximizes the appeal for Disney’s platform but blocks out other talented singers, dancers, and actors. 

Way when Brittany Spears a Disney property there was room left for other (better, truer) singers like Avril Lavigne.  Today, the sanitized Miley Cyrus talent trifecta effectively blots out the sun.

So far, the iPhone has been a platform for innovation.  Please ignore the fact that developers had to buy Apple computers to write applications for it.  Please ignore the fact that developers must pass through Apple’s QA and censors.  Please ignore the fact that you must purchase an Apple device.  Please ignore the fact that you can only purchase applications through the iTunes store.  They are a platform trifecta with hardware, software, and distribution.  This is the price that you pay to ride on Space Mountain, you must enter Apple’s iPark.

I’m hearing about some interesting new products emerging that will challenge Apple’s technology; however, I’m not sure if consumers are ready to leave the park and go to the festival.  I hope they are.

Disclaimer: I am a Dell employee.  We have products (based on Android) that complete with Apple’s smart phones and tablets.